Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Director Alex Garland had already impressed me with his engaging study of Artifical Intelligence and humanity in the film “Ex Machina.” He was definitely going to be a name to follow in years to come, and his follow up has just dropped amidst some controversy: “Annihilation” hit theaters in the United States but will soon be dropping directly to Netflix on several foreign markets. Producers had deemed the film too “heady” and “complex” for the average film-goer and decided to relegate the film to the next available market.

And I’m going to tell you right now that decision is downright shameful.

The film begins with a strange meteor’s crash into a Florida Peninsula lighthouse where it’s impact will have a significant effect on the surrounding area. We jump ahead a few years as a grieving widow mourns the loss of her husband to a military action- only to find him standing outside her bedroom door. He is confused, distant, and not altogether there. His classified mission has changed him and it isn’t long before our lead (Natalie Portman) is whisked away to a secret facility just outside the “shimmer”.

The “shimmer” is a phenomenon surrounding the area where the meteor had hit a lighthouse. Everything that goes in does not come out, no probes are able to broadcast, no people are coming out, and the shimmer is continuing to expand at a remarkable rate. Along with four other women, Portman’s Biologist enters and explores the Shimmer—

What follows is a complex exploration of birth, life, death, and rebirth as the women begin to succumb to the effects of the strange place. Animals seem almost cross bred with one another, fauna cross pollinates, and the whole area is engulfed in a strange glow that weighs on the protagonists minds. At once beautiful and grotesque, the world within the shimmer is a twisted reality.

With material based on the novels by Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Garland once again strikes Science Fiction gold and brings us a complex and horrifying glimpse into genetic manipulation and asks questions about the very basic foundations of life on this planet and, perhaps, on others.

8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Black Panther, some controversy, and Dead Shack


The latest feature based on Marvel comics, I’m going to be honest and say that I never really collected any attempts to maintain the title itself but always appreciated T’Challa’s presence in the Avengers, Daredevil, Captain America, and other guest appearances he would often make in other titles. His previous cinematic introduction in the last Captain America: Civil War film was clear cut perfect in my opinion and I thought he would make a great addition to the Avengers. But I was also looking forward to a great starring vehicle for the character.

AS far as action set pieces go, Black Panther packs a wallop! Featuring a great ensemble cast, we find that Wakanda is a technologically advanced society well into the next age as far as scientific advancements go. Utilizing the mysterious properties of the fictional “vibranium”, Wakanda has made these huge leaps under the leadership of its monarchal king. And here is where things get a little interesting, because we quickly learn that the Wakandans are NOT a united people…. They are five tribes, separate customs, separate beliefs, and they are as fractured internally as any other nation. Isolated from the rest of the world, they’ve advanced with one another but they still hold xenophobic views to the outside world and toward one another.

The new King, T’Challa, is forced to come to terms with how he will be King and how he will lead the nation that now sets on his shoulders. A mission to retrieve the international arms dealer, “Klaw”, has exposed the King to an enemy kept in secret for years. An outside force that will push the King to face the sins of his father’s past, and his responsibilities to his people and to the rest of the world. Chadwick Boseman is incredibly charming as the King, endearing and compassionate as a hero and leader. He shoulders much of the films nuance with the skill of a veteran actor, playing opposite Michael B Jordan’s “Killmonger”. Daniel Kaluuya has a smaller, but incredibly intense part to play as W’Kabi and Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest and a skilled espionage agent in service to Wakanda.

With that said, there were some pacing issues in the early portions when the film attempts to insert an American CIA agent (Martin Freeman) to provide later exposition for a villains introduction. The film could have been better served with a little less storyline development on the character. It feels a little like an earlier draft of the script would have used Steve Rogers in this role, but decided that his presence would be too much of a distraction and they rewrote a new character in his place. Andy Serkis’ is brilliantly used as the Villainous “Klaw” but feels a little wasted by the time of his departure.  

8 out of 10. A definite “must-see” for fans of the Marvel franchise of films.

And we need a little controversy-- cuz it feels so empty without me... 
A little bit on the film’s drummed up “Controversy” and all that hogwash.

Never, in the history of going to movies and enjoying movies have I ever seen such a rampant and concerted effort to ruin a film from two completely separate sides of political spectrum. From the Neo-Con Right we have a slew of posts warning of racial violence, threats, and condemnation. From the SJW Left, we have accusations of “cultural appropriation” and that this movie “Is not for you!” and so on so forth, yadda yadda-blah blah. Luckily I have “advantage” of two arms, two separate hands, and five fingers with one that I can proudly display to both sides. Spinning in a circle as I walk around, offering both sides of the political agendas the well-deserved flipping off they richly deserve.

If you are wholly devoted to this film because of its Cultural Importance, bully for you. If you are devoted to the point where you feel that you need to tell people that the film is not “intended” for them… just shut up. A film is intended for as wide an audience as possible… it’s intended to make money, entertain, and occasionally make us think.

On the flip side, if you wholly against this movie because you don’t like “Dah Racial Stuff, bro”… seek mental health aid. You’re being a narrow, small-minded, arrogant POS and I don’t like you. I really don’t. I think you’re illogical, because racism is not logical. I think you’re insane- not just stupid, but insane.


Here we are with another “Shudder Exclusive” horror flick that seemed loss in release limbo for quite some time. It got a little buzz on the festival circuit, but not enough to really get my engine revving for the release. I think it suffers a little from Zombie over exposure, but let’s not go there quite yet.

So the story is about a family heading out to a rented cabin for the weekend… father, son, daughter, father’s new fiancée, and the sons teenage best friend. This isn’t exactly the happiest of families- the fiancée is a bit of a lush, recovering from a hangover throughout the drive up to the cabin. The father is an even bigger lush, trying to be “best buds” with his kids and putting in too much effort with the sons best friend. The sister and brother constantly antagonize one another, and the best friend is shy, nervous, and has a serious crush on the sister. They come across a neighbors cabin and hilarity ensues.


Because this plays as horror comedy, with the three teens wisecracking while coping with the zombie horrors that they encounter. The key to good horror comedy, however- is to take the horror seriously and let the characters just BE funny, which is achieved in this film. The characters are really at risk and the zombies never become slapstick or amusing. There is real horror on display and some truly gruesome scenes.

6.5 out of 10.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tonya, The Ritual, Cloverfield Paradox, and Winchester.


Do you remember Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? Back in the early 90’s, the tragic tale of a skating rivalry gone awry was all over the tabloids. Kerrigan had been wounded in a sudden attack while training, her knee busted with a pipe and the perpetrator on the run. The image of Kerrigan on the floor, screaming “Why?!” had been burned into the zeitgeist of the era. It wasn’t long until the light was shone on rival competitor, Tonya Harding, and her husband Jeff Gillooly. Events quickly spiraled and they were both found guilty of conspiracy to wound Kerrigan-

“I, Tonya” offer a wonderfully unique and often contradictory glance into the life of Harding and her struggles in marriage and competition, including an especially painful childhood driven by a relentless “stage” mother who often seemed cold and distant. It’s important to note that this is HER story, based on an autobiographical account of her life. Interviews with other involved people will sometimes contradict her narrative or occasionally corroborates it but it’s important to note that this is her story. It’s not necessarily the truth, and much of that simply doesn’t matter.

Beautifully scripted and acted, the film unfolds in a relentless comedy of errors as the players are none too bright or sympathetic. We’re shown stark and realistic portrayals of domestic abuse and Margot Robbie delivers an incredible performance as Tonya. She makes Tonya into a believable, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes out of her depths, and often manipulative competitor with a tendency to shift the blame from herself when it suits her. Allison Janney nearly steals the show as LaVona Harding, Tonya’s domineering and abusive mother. The film deserves every award it’s garnered a nomination for and is an absolute MUST SEE.

9 out of 10.


“The Ritual” is an intense and atmospheric film set in the deep dark wilderness of Sweden’s Hiking trails. As important as the capable cast, the beautiful landscapes thick foliage and creeping fog creates a tense atmosphere that will rattle the nerves as effectively as any score could. And the film works to promote the surroundings as a very real and credible threat. In addition to whatever things may be hiding within.

Directed by David Bruckner (V/H/S and The Signal), the films story is about four friends who plan a holiday hiking through the mountains. The group are approaching their mid-forties and find their strained relationships stretched as each leads their separate lives. The trip is held in honor of a fifth member who had recently died, with one person in particular haunted by the event. The mounting tension works to build upon these strained relationships and drive the protagonists deeper into a dark wilderness that may never let them go.

Streaming on Netflix.

8 out of 10.


Dropping right after the Superbowl, Netflix continues to find new ways to promote their original content when they decided to drop the third film in the popular franchise that has featured a giant Kaiju, space aliens, a psychotic killer, and now brings us to the near-future and a space station orbiting earth as it prepares an experiment that will provide limitless power to the beleaguered people far below. In what is basically a twist on the “Heddron Collider” theories, the Cloverfield Space station activates and something truly devastating happens.

From here on out, any information I could give would be a woeful disservice to you. Suffice to say that things get shook up all over the place and the space station’s inhabitants begin to experience bizarre events while the people down below are also facing repercussions of their own.

Tying some of these events in a nice little bow, the Cloverfield Paradox does a terrific job in linking the previous films in the franchise while cementing its own unique story along the way.

7 out of 10.


Dames aside, this one is a fairly standard spook film that tries to copy formulas from other recent films and to cash in on urban legends surrounding the very real and, subsequently, very near Winchester House. Billed as “The house that ghosts built”, the film plays heavily on its major conceit that “guns are bad” and the souls of those who had been killed by guns are haunting the matriarch of this family estate. There is a somewhat interesting story involving the psychiatrist sent to evaluate Mrs. Winchester’s mental awareness, but the film is basically a haunted house attraction with creaking steps, jumping ghouls, and howling moans.

4 out of 10, maybe rent it if you’re bored.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Book Review: Savage Woods - Some Movies - Why I'm deciding to keep blogging

GUESS WHO’S BACK??? (Well, I guess I just didn’t want to leave.)

I'm going to hold off on my ranting whine fest until the end of this blog...

So, without further ado- todays lunatic rant review will be a novel that I picked up on my Kindle.


Mary SanGiovanni

So it’s been a little less than a year since I’ve been reading on a regular basis… I had been such an avid reader since my teens, but I go through spurts where I don’t read anything and I sort of twist and tumble through life. Last year had been busy with reading a series of droning scripts. More work rather than a leisurely experience that I could sink in to.

(Good lord, if I read or attend one more play about a middle age repressed woman rebelling against her authoritarian/abusive/sexist husband and doing wild stuff with her former college roommate/sister/best friend/person with that one “younger guy” who inevitably tries to pass off his “free wheeling” lifestyle as “sage wisdom”, then I might just puke.)
So I was on Twitter and a random tweet crossed my stream, Mary SanGiovanni was promoting her book and had recommended it on a Friday afternoon where I had some excess money on my Amazon account through gift certificates. Well, I decided to download it and spent the next several days just digging in with a couple of mouthfuls at a time. I mean, I really don’t tend to take my time when I read- devour, done, move on. But this one was getting to me- and I decided to savor it. We had some pretty nasty gruesome imagery right from the start.

SanGiovanni brings us to the New Jersey Pine Barrens and introduces us to a number of characters as they gradually become lost in the deep dark woods. If you’ve never been, these woods are pretty scary looking. Twisting trunks that curl up toward the sky with a kind of greyish bark covered in splotches of moss. They always struck me as kind of “Tendril-like”, so it’s a great location for horror to take place. In “Savage Woods”, The Tree Spirits rule’ ancient creatures of Native American folklore, and they are not happy with man’s encroachment. But there is something else, something darker and driven mad through its long imprisonment. Something that infects the spirits, infects the people, and threatens to plunge the world into madness.

The book moves briskly with likeable protagonists that we can easily identify with. There’s a sub plot involving an abused woman fleeing her abusive ex-boyfriend and the police officer working on her case. But the horror begins before that, long before as the story unfolds. The Tree Spirits are scary, traditional monsters that will make you afraid of each creak and snap as you wander the woods. I’ve had arguments about whether “vegetables” can be scary, and these are a prime example of just how horrifying they can be. They are twisting branches, rotting trunks, and gripping roots that squeeze is undeniable power. But the true horror is in the madness itself, as we are forced to endure the pressure and twist of perceptions as the characters are driven past reason and logic… some embrace the horror that infects their minds, others turn away from it and are just as damned, and still others struggle with thoughts that ae not their own.

All in all, a good horrific tale.

6.5 out of 10. 

 MOVIE:  MAYHEM (2017)


This movie is fucking INSANE!!!

From the get go we know what kind of film we are in store for as Joe Lynch takes us straight into the heart of corporate America and sets loose the dogs of war with an explanation of the "red eye" virus. A twist on the old "rage" virus, this illness lowers inhibitions and sends emotions to a whirlwind high. Unfortunately, the company that discovered the legal loophole that allowed those infected to literally get away with murder just fired one of their employees on the same morning the company is quarantined with a quick outbreak of the virus.

At times hilarious, well paced, and bat shit insane; Mayhem delivers on its titles promise and delivers a gory and satirical good time. Not to be missed for fans of the B-Grade high intensity exploitation genre.


8 out of 10

MOVIE: Proud Mary

 Though fairly standard Gloria-type remake, Proud Mary is a throwback in feel to some of the better made Blaxploitatuon of the 70s with a strong influence from Pam Grier. And call me a Jack Rabbit if you will, I do love me some grindhouse exploitation with some smooth ass bitches in charge. Teraji Henson is a charismatic lead and captivates the eye with enough compassion and hardness to make the heart pound a little harder. She kind of mows her way through the "bad guys" in this shoot-em-up, but that's really all there is to the film.

Worth a watch, though maybe a bit if a guilty pleasure.
 6 out of 10

MOVIE: Godzilla - Monster Planet

I've honestly always preferred the "Hero" version of Godzilla, but this animated film delivers a truly terrifying version of the creature in a far flung future. Humanity tries to wrestle control of the planet from the fearsome beast, aided by a mysterious alien race. The film spends the majority of it's run-time developing the "world" in which the story takes place. We see the technology, we see the culture, and we return to earth several million years after Godzilla and the Kaiju monsters have taken over the planet. 

But the movie isn't a "one shot", as we come to learn at the end and development is already under way for a sequel. The way they animated Godzilla in a different style kind of serves the alien nature of the monster but may be difficult to accept for sticklers. All in all, I was pleasantly entertained. 

7 out of 10 

OKAY... you can skip this part if you have no interest in my whinging lameness. 

 So after my whine fest in the last blog entry, I decided to take some time and collect my thoughts and really consider who I am writing this blog for. In the end, it has always been for myself and for the few people who read my words and get some sort of a kick out of whatever I have to say. I’m not some Industry Professional, I’m not some scholar with a wall full of degrees, and I’m not the final arbiter of art and its meaning. I never tried to be any of that. I've never presented myself as that. When I started writing I was a 30 year old new father looking for a creative outlet. Virtually no one read my blog- very few read it now. 

Be that as it may, it has actually grown and people are reading it now. Whether through friends of friends or what have you. Some people are finding my opinions worth noting and sharing and some find my opinions less than acceptable. I have to buck up and accept that- and stop taking their accusations to heart because they largely don't know me. The few that do should know me well enough to realize I'm a surprisingly decent person who often has too open of a heart.

I haven’t changed my views on this regressive thinking that makes people think it’s perfectly acceptable to call out every perceived slight as a reality. I think it’s wrong and I think the “call out” culture is going to lead us down a very dark rabbit hole. The inevitable backlash will be their consequence. But in that respect, I need to have a thicker skin and be willing to let people think I’m this awful monster for having the very controversial views that I have; Split was a fantastic film, exploitation films are fun, and the last few seconds of “They Call Her One Eye” made the entire run time of suffering and horror just flat out worth it. 

I'm not perfect and neither are any of you. Don't worry about it and I'm sorry for wasting your time with my petty problems.